johnliddlephotography

Frozen moments from the infinity that is time

Everyday Tokyo

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This is my hundredth post on Japan, thus bringing this series to an end, at least until I can return to build a larger image stock. I am, however, intending to finish the year with a couple of posts based on specific individual images to ease my withdrawal symptoms. The images I have shared over this journey were taken during two separate six-week visits during the Japanese Autumn and Spring seasons, with the approach evolving as I went. From my perspective I have enjoyed the experience, which allowed me to stay in touch with Japan and to gain enhanced knowledge through comments made on photographs from time to time.

Whilst this is really a low-key finale I thought it fitting to finish with a few street shots of everyday life from the world’s most populated metropolis. The opening image (pic 1) was clearly shot in the Ginza where upmarket brands compete for attention and seem to be regarded as commonplace by local Tokyoites. Of course, I’m sure the subliminal messaging is still working. From the Ginza to the older Tokyo vibe of Asakusa (pic 2) is a big change, but kids are kids and I thought the teacher (my assumption) setting-up for a group shot to remember the outing was quite universal in its nature.

Pics 3 and 4 taken on a Sunday visit to Ueno Park are reminders of the contrasts to be found in all societies. Whilst the bike-riding drummer (pic 3) attracted a crowd, almost directly across the pathway was the homeless person (pic 4) alone with her thoughts. During my times in Tokyo I visited Ebisu often for the convenience of shopping (pic 5), as well as being a frequent visitor to Tokyo’s wonderful Museum of Photography (pic 6).

I’ve included three shots from Hibiya (pics 7 to 9) as I believe the area highlights two commendable characteristics of Tokyo life. For an area that in many other cities around the world might tend towards seediness, the pictures demonstrate the typical cleanliness of the streets and the high level of public safety.

This brings me to the final shot taken in Roppongi. Compared to the ordered chaos of the famous Shibuya crossing, the street crossing in Roppongi (pic 10) is humdrum. Nevertheless, I found it an interesting example of proxemic behaviour where those waiting to cross have each taken up positions that maximises their personal space. The classic example of such behaviour is most easily observed in elevators. Be observant next time you ride a lift.

Thank you to everyone who has visited my blog, with an especial thanks to those who have been regular visitors since the early stages of this series.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)

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This gallery contains 10 photos


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Contemporary Architecture in Japan

We depend on buildings for so many aspects of our daily lives such as shelter, safety and places of work, study and recreation to name a few. They are perhaps the most dominant mark that humankind has made on the planet and all buildings, regardless of size or function, started as an idea in someone’s mind. Architecture gives form to these ideas and when we travel to new places, we bring with us a natural curiosity about the architectural forms we will encounter.

So it was with my visits to Japan and although I was probably more interested in Japan’s older and more traditional buildings, I also found much of interest in its more contemporary architecture. In my last post on Shinjuku I featured a few examples, two of which are shown again here along with other selected buildings.

I have chosen to open the post with two shots (pics 1 and 2) of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum as a reminder of Japan’s diligent and ongoing commitment to world peace and as a reminder of the extensive rebuilding that was required post-war. The domed glass roof shown in pic 1 reminds me of Hiroshima’s famous domed building that stands as a monument to the horror and folly of atomic war. Similarly, the striking shadows at pic 2 invite visitors to the museum to contemplate past events as they wend their way down to the museum via the gently curving walkways.

Also utilising a lattice structure, the aptly named Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower (pic 3) in Shinjuku houses three tertiary educational institutions (as identified in my previous post). To the bottom right of the photograph one can glimpse the adjoining dome structure, which, viewed at street level, is reminiscent of a golf ball half buried in a bunker. I’ve never really thought of buildings as “eye candy”, but this particular building jumps out and demands to be viewed.

Not far away, also in Shinjuku, one finds the towering Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (pics 4 and 5). This truly is a colossus and although I did not find it very appealing aesthetically, its scale commands attention. The more visually appealing part of the complex is the semi-ringed structure shown at pic 2, itself of considerable scale as can be gauged from the solitary figure traversing the forecourt. Although it is an illusion I like the way the forecourt appears to be sloping away from the building.

Probably what most surprised me about Tokyo’s commercial towers was their scale and solidity. Compared to skyscrapers in cities such as New York and Chicago, the buildings in Marunouchi opposite Tokyo Station are not particularly tall. However, they sit so solidly on the ground to appear unshakeable, thus bearing witness to how architects have designed buildings to survive in an earthquake ravaged land.

As a demonstration of scale, one of my favorite shots is that of the three glass towers (pic 7), which was shot from a viewing area atop the Kitte Shoka shopping centre. The solitary figure highlighted at street level (bottom right of shot) hints at our physical insignificance, yet we must remember we are looking at the product of human imagination and construction.

Tokyo’s tallest structure is Skytree (pic 8), which, like other tall structures dominates the skyline. I recall one day being in Ueno and on impulse deciding to walk to Skytree. No maps or GPS navigation was required. All I had to do was look up and follow my nose. The structure is so dominant it did not even allow one the excuse of practicing Japanese by asking for directions. During that walk I took many photos along the way with Skytree in shot and perhaps I will post a “Finding Skytree” blog at some stage.

I mentioned Kitte Shoka a moment ago, which is a relatively new shopping centre directly across from the Marunouchi entry to Tokyo Station. As shown at pic 9, the internal design is interesting with the shops arranged on several floors following a triangular layout.

One of Tokyo’s most striking buildings is the Tokyo International Forum (pics 10 to 12) located near the boundary of Tokyo’s CBD and the Ginza shopping district. The building functions as a convention and exhibition space and is the outcome of the first international architectural competition held in Japan in 1989. Inside the building is especially magical and teases visitors to open their imaginations. Designed in the shape of a sailing boat, one could equally imagine being Moby Dick swallowed by a giant whale, or even being held within an inter-galactic spaceship.

To conclude this post that, in reality, has not even scratched the surface of contemporary Japanese architecture, I have chosen three smaller scale structures. Pic 13 can be found in Ginza and is included simply for its elegance and distinctly Japanese aesthetic. At pic 14 I have shown an external staircase attached to the FUJI television headquarters building in Odaiba because, for some reason, I felt compelled to include something brutal. In my opinion this staircase met that need. Finally, the vertical garden at pic 15 seemed an apt way to acknowledge that there is always room for nature amidst the concrete and steel.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)


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2014 Favourites

As 2014 draws to an end, it is natural to become somewhat reflective and for my final blog for this year, I thought I would select my favourite shot from each month’s posts.

This was more difficult than I had thought. Each photo is a memory and some months had several favourites. However, changing the rules on New Year’s Eve does not bode well for 2015 resolutions, so I stuck to the task and made my selections.

There is no theme. They are simply my selections for a variety of reasons and no further commentary will be made, except to say they are shown in chronological order (January to December) should anyone wish to visit the original posts.

I would like to thank everyone who has supported my blog this year and I hope the photos and stories have brought you as much pleasure as they have brought me.

I wish you all a safe and happy New Year and my best wishes for the year ahead.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)


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Ginza (part 2)

In part 2 of my post on Ginza I’d like to show there is more to Ginza than beautifully presented stores selling up-market products. Where better to start than with a Ginza institution, Meida-Ya (pics 1 and 2).

Meida-Ya is an up-market grocery store (established in 1885) whose headquarters and flagship store is located in Ginza. Operating under the motto of “The Highest Quality for Everyone Everytime”, the business now operates a network of 12 stores across the Tokyo metropolis and 14 stores elsewhere in Japan, as well as two international stores in Amsterdam and Singapore. A visit to their Ginza store will show adherence to their motto, not to mention the temptation to try some of the goodies on offer.

Despite the dominating impact of the big name brands, there is still room for independent operators to cater to those shoppers looking for individuality and quirkiness. I was quite taken by the two shops shown at pic 3, one catering for a young contemporary market and the other specializing in kimono – the most traditional of Japanese clothing. The birdcage and the coolest umbrella stand (made from a converted violin) (pic 4) draw attention to the store and add further to its individuality.

Those wishing to preserve their credit cards can also find more reasonably priced goods by exploring the quieter side and backstreets, as shown by the small footwear store at pics 5 and 6.

Art galleries are quite numerous in the Ginza area and art lovers could easily spend an interesting day wandering the streets and enjoying the exhibitions on offer. What one finds is naturally dependent on the exhibitions at any given time, though one is likely to find work ranging from jovial Buddhas (pic 8) to antiquities (pic 9). One may even come across some mobile installation art, such as Ugueno (pic 7) parked curbside. I am unsure what the work represents, but I believe it may be an alternative and highly contrasting form of flower arrangement. Whatever the message, it was noticed on the streets of Ginza.

Ginza’s shops and offices support a large workforce, thus creating a demand for bars and restaurants where workers may relax and unwind. Pics 12 to 18 show a sample of the bars and eateries, many of which can be found in Ginza’s quieter streets and laneways.

Walking around Japanese streets, one cannot help but notice the distinctive manhole covers. Rather than cheap, nondescript covers, one frequently comes across eye-catching, decorative covers that enhance the streetscape, such as the cover captured at pic 19. It seems to me that applying this level of attention to such a utilitarian item is yet another way to create pride in local neighbourhoods.

To prove that Ginza is not all gleam and glitter, I have chosen to end this two-part post with pic 20 – a photograph of rubbish awaiting collection. Yes, even Ginza needs to dispose of its rubbish, but as can be seen, it too is very tidy and well organised.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)


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Ginza (part 1)

The young woman (pic 1) exiting Ginza Station is about to emerge at the famous Ginza Crossing, the heart of Ginza and probably the most expensive real estate in Tokyo.

In English, Ginza translates to silver mint and was indeed the location for a silver-coin mint built in 1612. At that time the area was vastly different from today with its traditional wooden buildings and narrow streets. Two events impacted significantly on its transformation, namely the enlightenment of the Meiji Restoration period and the great fire of 1872. Decisions to adopt brick and stone as building materials and the widening of Chuo-dori from 15 to 27 metres, thus created Tokyo’s first boulevard and provided the foundation for the nation’s entrepreneurs to create the Ginza we know today.

Ginza Crossing or, to be more correct, the Ginza 4-chome intersection, is the area’s hub. On one corner is the San-ai building (pics 2 and 3), a tubular glass building housing a variety of businesses, as well as prominent advertising signage. Le Café Doutor occupies the first two levels, with the upper level being an excellent vantage point for people watching over coffee. Unfortunately, the best seats are in the smoking area, so I have not had the pleasure of lingering there to enjoy the view.

The WAKO Department Store with its famous Seiko clock atop the building dominates another corner. This is perhaps the most recognised of the Crossing’s corners (pics 4 and 5) and WAKO has enjoyed loyal patronage since its inception in 1868.

Diagonally opposite WAKO on the third corner is the Nissan Gallery (pic 6), a somewhat unusual yet interesting space where one can peruse displays of Nissan’s latest vehicles. Nissan’s head office is also located in Ginza, thus reminding us that the area is a business centre and not just a retail and entertainment hub.

The fourth corner is occupied by the Mitsukoshi Department Store, which I understand is the oldest of Japan’s major department stores and the starting point for the Mitsui Group, which operates globally across a range of diverse industries. During my visits to Japan I formed a liking for Mitsukoshi over the other major stores and it is somewhat embarrassing not to have a photograph to round out the four corners. It’s on the list for next time.

If one was to include the word Ginza in a word association test, one suspects a frequent response would be “shopping” or similar terms. There is no question that it deserves its place among the world’s great shopping and entertainment precincts, as can be appreciated from the brand names at pics 9 to 21. This is not an exhaustive coverage, but suffices to demonstrate the esteem in which Ginza is held among the world’s top designers and popular global brands.

One of my favourite photos is pic 7, where two generations under the protective cover of their brollies pass on the sidewalk. Each group seems immersed in their own conversations, though I find it amusing that the older ladies have the more colourful brollies.

In this post I have focused on showing glimpses of the well-known Ginza and without the stores depicted here, there would be no Ginza as we popularly think of it. However, there is more than glitz and glitter to Ginza and in my next post I will share some images taken around the area’s quieter streets.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)